How Many SAT Subject Tests Should You Take?

The word “sophomore” translates from two Greek words - sophos, meaning “wise” and moros meaning “fool.” It’s appropriate: you’re smarter than you were as a doe-eyed freshman, but not quite as savvy as you will be as an upperclassman.

“Junior” doesn’t have a Greek origin, but if we were to give this year a Greek name, it would be Etos Dokimi, or Year of the Tests.

You have to take final exams, AP exams, and midterms. You have to take the ACT or SAT (usually at least twice). And you should probably add one more group to that list: subject tests.

Why add more tests to your year of testing? For one, many colleges require Subject Tests, hour-long exams, typically taken in May or June  Unlike the SAT or ACT, which mostly just measure how well you take standardized tests, Subject Tests represent your knowledge of a specific discipline.

How many should you take? That depends. Use the following rules of thumb to guide your decision:

1. Many competitive colleges require subject tests.

Compass Prep offers a comprehensive list for which colleges require or recommend subject tests, so a good first step would be to review your college list and determine what you need to take.  

The gist: many Ivy League colleges (and their ilk) require them. Very few other schools do, but many still recommend them. The UC’s, for example, recommend them, especially for those who wish to major in math or science.

2. Take subject tests if you’re majoring in engineering or science, we encourage you to take Math 2 and a subject test in the science discipline - physics, chemistry, biology - of your choice.

3. Take subject tests if you’re going to do well in them. A good start is to read more about the tests and take a shot at some practice questions. If you’re not going to do well, then you’re not getting into those competitive colleges anyway.  No reason to take a test you’re going to flunk.

The bottom line: you only need these tests if you’re applying to the most competitive colleges, and even then, you should only take them if you know you’re going to do well.  

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